Something has to give.
When No. 1-ranked Tumwater (13-0) and No. 2-ranked Lynden (13-0) meet at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Tacoma Dome to decide who is the best Class 2A football team in the state, it will be a terrific matchup of explosive offense versus shutdown defense.
The Thunderbirds are averaging 45.7 points per game and have scored 45 of more points seven times. The Lions allowed 10.1 points per game and nine times have held opponents to one touchdown or less.
Tumwater thrives on the big play. Lynden prides itself in preventing it.
It's no secret the Lions' key ingredient to success has been a healthy portion of defense, although Lynden's offense has seemed to improve each week.
Tumwater, on the other hand, has posted strong defensive numbers but scores so many points it rarely needs its defense to win games.
"They are a great team," Lynden coach Curt Kramme said in a phone interview. "Offensively, they are big-play oriented. They've had a lot of long runs, and they don't go down easy. We have a great deal of respect for those guys."
As Lynden should.
The Lions successfully avenged a 2010 first round of state 21-10 loss with their 41-7 win over the Thunderbirds during last year's state title game. Tumwater will get the chance to knock off Lynden this time.
The Thunderbirds' offense revolves around the running game in their deceptive Wing-T crafted by Tumwater coaching legend Sid Otton. Class 2A All-Evergreen Conference MVP Christian Cummings averages 9.6 yards per carry and has run for 1,700 yards and 28 touchdowns. Fellow back Easton Trakel has run for 565 yards and seven TDs, and Tyrus Snow has compiled 656 yards and four scores.
But in spite of all Tumwater's ground success, Sehome coach Bob Norvell, whose Mariners played both Lynden and Tumwater, doesn't think the Thunderbirds will be able to run all over the Lions.
"I think Tumwater, for one, has great athletes," Norvell said in a phone interview. "They have been doing it for a long time. Lynden's linebackers are so good. They are just very good. I think Tumwater is going to have trouble moving the ball against Lynden for sure."
Norvell suggested Tumwater needs to be able to pass the ball to be effective, and Thunderbirds senior quarterback Jayden Croft versus the Lions' secondary presents an interesting matchup.
Croft has completed 54 percent of his passes for 1,368 yards and 11 touchdowns with only three interceptions. Trakel has been his favorite target, compiling a team-high 632 receiving yards. Lynden's secondary, which is composed of safeties Lucas Petersen and Rudy Mendoza and corners Jordan Wittenberg and Jacob Boland, have only given up eight touchdowns and have recorded 20 interceptions.
"Jayden Croft is our quarterback for the second year," Otton said in a phone interview, "and he has spent a lot of time in the offseason working on passing, and he has done a nice job throwing the ball."
Another key matchup when Lynden is on offense will be the Lions' receivers against the Thunderbirds' secondary. Teams have had trouble guarding Lynden's receiving corps and getting off their blocks.
Lynden running back Trent Postma is a strong back, but against Tumwater's physical front and talented inside linebackers, the Lions may have the most success throwing out wide.
"I think Lynden has to throw the ball down the field, and they can't be afraid to use their run game to control the block a little bit," Norvell suggested.
Besides all the scheming and game planning that goes into preparing for a state title game, Kramme said it boils down to desire and effort come game day.
"I try to tell our kids, it's not about what we tell them, it's about how well they play this Saturday," he said. "Schemes are schemes, but I keep going back to desire and effort as the two major ingredients for me."
Even though it seems like Tumwater and Lynden have been on a collision course since the beginning of this season, and the fact the Lions beat the Thunderbirds to win a 2012 title, Otton said his club isn't heavily buying into the revenge factor.
"Lynden or somebody else," he said," we're just happy to get back. We don't try to get even, even though they took it from us last year. Our team has great respect for Lynden."
Norvell wavered when asked who he thought would win the game, but ultimately he felt Lynden's defense would help the Lions win a close game somewhere in the 20-point range. He gave Tumwater the edge if the contest became high scoring.
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.